Weekend Wanderer: Is My Motion Sickness Really a Physical Issue or Just a Control Issue?


First of all, I’m alive. I made it home from Montana.

At the moment, however, I would almost accept death.

I disembarked from my plane 36 hours ago, but my stomach still roils like a bad morning after.

I get sick in anything that moves. Cars, planes, boats — you name it. If it moves, I’ll get sick in it. The feeling persists for days beyond my travels. Is it because my traitorous stomach stops transporting anything I ingest the moment the ride begins?

Or is it because I have a rare disorder I discovered while researching this piece? It’s called mal de debarquement. It’s motion sickness that lasts for months or years after the motion is over.

While I appreciate the opportunity to practice my French, I’m not particularly enjoying my newfound anxiety that I have — or will get — mal de debarquement. I mean, I just got over worrying about plane crashes. I thought I’d get a little break.

And just so we’re clear, I get sick in my own body, too. I dance with Tracy Anderson each morning like I’m Jennifer Grey, it’s 1988, and Patrick Swayze is waiting to catch me in a lift. But if I spin with the dancers on my screen, I become more gray-skinned, less Jennifer Grey.

And I can’t even talk about motion sickness remedies. Ginger does nothing. Nor does looking at the horizon. And the only seat that works for me is the driver’s. That’s fine when it’s your car. Not so fine when it’s a boat or a bus.

Unless you’re Sandra Bullock. But I can’t be Jennifer Grey and Sandra Bullock. I need to spread those riches around.

On a boat ride in Cape May, the crew took one look at me and shuttled me to the deck, dumping ginger candies in my lap. On a turbulent flight to Wyoming, I clutched a motion sickness bag.

As if that could actually hold what I was about to produce.

But during a trip to London — in which I took cars, an airport train, actual trains, buses, and the Chunnel — I was fine. Until my return trip, which brought on an epic bout of motion sickness lasting a week after I was home.

This is obviously because I’m meant to live in London. Living in London should eradicate my motion sickness. It’s so obvious.

Which brings me to my next point.

Everything I’ve ever read about motion sickness says eating small, bland meals around and during your travels can mitigate motion sickness. Heavy, greasy foods should be avoided.

But it tends to be heavy foods that help me feel better. It is cola — not ginger ale — that soothes my stomach. Iced tea is even better. Chocolate helps, especially in the form of ice cream. Sometimes, a plate of French fries eases my symptoms.

These things, incidentally, are all things typically denied in my daily diet. Except for iced tea, of course. My barista and I have a first-name relationship. Even if she erroneously and persistently believes I’m fostering a baby.

So if the only successful treatments for my motion sickness are taking the wheel, consuming French fries, or living in London, doesn’t that point to this being a control issue rather than a physical issue?

“You?” my husband said when I voiced my theory. “I can’t see you having control issues.”

He’s a lot less funny when my stomach is lurching like it’s Gomez and Morticia’s butler.

So here I sit. Trying not to vomit. Struggling, because even this conversation is giving me motion sickness.

Maybe this is what I should worry about before my next trip. Not crashing. Just the motion sickness.

Wait. Who are we kidding?

I’ll worry about both.